Before hospitals, mothers gave birth in the comfort of their own homes and their babies grew up just fine. Is it safe to do it today? What are the risks? What if there are complications? What if something goes wrong? Is home birth okay for a first-time mum? You obviously have a ton of questions on your mind. As a first-time mum, I had the same questions on my mind before finally giving birth safely to my daughter at home.
Here is why you should consider giving birth at home.
1. The comfort of your home
Unlike a hospital birth, you are not confined to a little space — you have the whole house to yourself. You can wear whatever you feel like wearing that makes you comfortable. It’s your home, every food is allowed and you can eat whatever you want to eat at whatever time. You also have the chance to practice a variety of labour positions to find out what works best for you. For me, lying on the floor and climbing up and down the stairs helped to ease my contractions. I have no idea how I would have done that in the hospital. Hospital births are more controlled. You are usually confined to a bed and your food and fluid intake is limited. At home, you know where the kitchen is in case you are craving for anything. After all, you are only pregnant and not sick.
2. Less risk of intervention
Research shows that moms who planned to give birth at home ended up with fewer interventions, such as episiotomies and C-sections, compared with a group of equally low-risk women who had planned hospital deliveries. In my opinion, this is as a result of time management. Instead of letting the birth happen naturally, they want to speed up the process or make it happen at a desirable time for the doctor or mother. Planned home births have been associated with less maternal infection and fewer maternal interventions, including electronic fetal heart rate monitoring and episiotomy, along with fewer third- or fourth-degree lacerations and tears.
During pre-natal care, your health care practitioner will walk you through all the potential “what if’s” and discuss a backup plan with you. They have a good system in place for transfer to a hospital when necessary.
3. No restrictions
A home birth offers you the freedom to choose the number of people you want to share your precious moment with. Your husband can be there, your older children, your mum, siblings, your friends, and even the dog can be there if you like. At the hospital, this can be restricted to two or three people maximum. You can also have a more private birth, without the interruptions of hospital staff, and you won’t have to endure routine medical intervention.
4. You are in control
Unlike a hospital birth, your partner is given the opportunity to be involved — he may catch the baby and cut the cord if he likes. You also have the opportunity to hold your baby right from the womb. There is no time constraint, you can hold and bond with your baby as long as you want. In some hospitals, the baby is cleaned and evaluated immediately after delivery, preventing mothers from spending time with the baby right from womb. The first hour after birth is when the baby is most awake and alert. It’s the perfect time to bond by holding your baby skin-to-skin on your chest and to start breastfeeding, which helps the uterus contract and reduces bleeding immediately after delivery.
If you settle with a hospital birth, when writing your birth plan or discussing the delivery with your doctor or midwife, specify how you want it to go. If you want to hold your baby right from the womb before they take him or her away from your sight to clean and evaluate, be sure to let them know. Otherwise, you risk missing out on that precious moment. For a home birth, cleaning and evaluation is done in your arms.
5. You experience a natural labor
If you desire to go through labor in a natural way, with no epidural and pain medications, a home birth should be something to consider. However, if there’s any chance you might want an epidural or other anesthetic pain meds, you won’t be able to order those in at home. If you want to remain in control of your body as much as possible, be an active participant throughout labor, and have minimal routine interventions, such as continuous electronic monitoring, then a natural, unmedicated approach to labor and birth will suit you best. If you choose to go this route, you accept the potential for pain and discomfort as part of giving birth. But that shouldn’t be something you can’t bear. Before epidurals, women gave birth without. Our bodies release endorphins during childbirth which serves as a natural pain relief. With the right preparation and support, mothers often feel empowered and deeply satisfied by natural childbirth. Unlike pain meds, natural childbirth techniques are not invasive, so there’s little potential for harm or side effects for you or your baby.
6. You have the midwife all to yourself
During a home birth, you have your health care provider all to yourself. Your midwife is 100% focused on you and your baby. The midwife will be with you to provide support and help you through labor. They carry the same kind of equipment and medication you would find at the birth centre. Your midwife will also follow up to visit you and give you lactation advise after the birth. During the labor, your midwife will periodically monitor your temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and your baby’s heart rate. After the baby arrives, your health care provider will examine your newborn and do all the paperwork while you relax and enjoy your little one.
7. Giving birth at home means lower cost
A home birth is relatively low-cost compared to a hospital birth. A planned home birth might cost about one-third of the hospital birth’s cost. You can save a lot of money by choosing a home birth and invest it into baby’s essentials, such as strollers, cribs, clothing, and all the other necessities to make your adorable baby’s life on earth more comfortable.
Be mindful that home birth is not right for everyone. Your health care provider will caution against a home birth if you have diabetes, chronic hypertension, a seizure disorder, or any chronic medical condition. If you previously had a C-section or have developed a pregnancy complication, such as preeclampsia, or if you are pregnant with multiples or your baby is in breech position, a home birth might not be right for you.
If you’re not sure whether you have medical or obstetrical problems that would keep you from having a home birth, contact a home birth provider and share your concerns over the phone. If there are no obvious reasons to rule out a home birth, you can make an appointment for a first prenatal visit. At that visit, the caregiver will do a detailed history and physical exam, as well as the usual set of lab tests. They’ll continue to assess your situation throughout your pregnancy and during labor, birth, and the postpartum period. If you’re a healthy expectant mother having a normal pregnancy and you have no medical or obstetrical risk factors, giving birth at home may be something to consider.
Featured photo credit: New born baby Leo via flickr.com